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The Use of Climate as a Scapegoat for Governance Abuses and Failures – and Why That’s a Problem

Lake Assad and the Tabaqah Dam

By Peter Schwartzstein

Getting environmental officials to expound on their countries’ crises can be futile in much of the Middle East and North Africa (and well beyond). These officials might not want to talk about pollution because they have no plan – or wherewithal – to tackle it. It can be difficult to draw them out on the causes of degraded landscapes as they’re generally powerless to stifle the perpetrators. Even biodiversity die-off is often out. It can be too closely linked to their own governments’ policies.

There is one subject, though, where many of these public officials have considerably less reserve, and that’s climate change. As a devastating global phenomenon for which most of their states are only marginally responsible, many feel it’s the safest of ground. In discussions across these regions, previously tight-lipped interviewees have frequently become outright voluble when I’ve solicited their thoughts on drought, desertification, dust storms, and more. ‘Ah, benign territory!’ their expressions sometimes seem to suggest. 

There’s a tremendous upside to this heightened interest, of course. With some of the fiercest climate stresses in the world and some of the most limited efforts to adapt or mitigate the damage to date, many Middle Eastern and North African states desperately need to face up to these threats, particularly in the field of climate security, where they’re feeling the pressure more than most. Indeed, some already are. A number of African states have redirected up to 10% of their GDP to combat stresses from climate change. The sooner laggard officials are moved to concrete action the better.

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Report: The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent – A New Climate Security Governance Framework

R2P2 Climate Security Framework Report CoverA quick read of daily headlines makes it increasingly clear that current governance structures are not fully prepared for the security risks of a changing climate.  In response to these mounting risks, the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, is releasing a report calling for a framework for using our unprecedented foresight capabilities to anticipate and prevent the unprecedented security risks of climate change. Titled The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2): A Climate Security Governance Framework for the 21st Century, authors Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia identify three critical gaps in the international governance of climate security risks that have stalled preparedness and prevention.  The report also offers three concrete proposals for filling those gaps to make sure the world avoids the worst of these risks on the horizon. Click here for the full report, and see below for the Executive Summary.
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A Responsibility to Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Foresight

UN_security_council_2005Report summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risk and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system. For more, see the Responsibility to Prepare page, including the full report.

Assessing Climate Security Vulnerability in Africa: CCAPS’s new online dashboard

Africa_1971_2000_mean_temperatureThe Strauss Center’s Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program recently released a new online dashboard that allows users to assess climate and security vulnerability in Africa. According to their website:

CCAPS climate dashboard, an online platform that displays data on physical, socio-economic, demographic, and political insecurities to assess how these factors contribute to “climate security” vulnerability in Africa.” (more…)

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